Government ordered to pay £142,000 to ‘whistleblower’ after Employment Tribunal claim

MoJA Government department has been ordered to pay a former senior civil servant almost £150,000 after it failed to comply with an Employment Tribunal’s ruling that he should be found another job in the Government.

The Treasury department has been ordered to pay David Owen, the former head of the national insurance policy unit in the department, £142,000 after the Treasury failed to re-employ him after being ordered to do so by an Employment Tribunal in 2012.

Mr Owen brought an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and dismissal due to protected disclosure against the Treasury after he was dismissed in 2011. Mr Owen alleged that he had been dismissed because he had attempted to include details of a tax break for small business in his proposals – a policy which was not popular with senior colleagues and was “killed off” by them. Mr Owen had spotted that the detail of the tax break had been removed from the amended document and raised this with his senior colleagues, causing “red faces and ruffled feathers”. Mr Owen was later dismissed for, the Treasury claimed, unrelated matters. He subsequently brought a claim for unfair dismissal against the Treasury, claiming that he had been unfairly dismissed and that he had been dismissed for the principal reason that he had made protected disclosures (also known as “whistleblowing”).

The Employment Tribunal found in Mr Owen’s favour in 2012 in his claim for unfair dismissal and dismissal due to protected disclosure. The Tribunal ruled that Mr Owen’s dismissal was “seriously flawed in a number of important respects” and commented that the Treasury “did not act reasonably”. The Employment Tribunal ordered the Treasury to re-employ Mr Owen within the Treasury but had failed to comply with this Order, leading to a further Employment Tribunal hearing earlier this year. At this hearing the Treasury was heavily criticised by the Employment Tribunal for failing to comply with the Tribunal’s Order and, further, failing to provide any reasons for having complied with the Order. The Tribunal ordered the Treasury to pay £142,000 to Mr Owen as compensation for his claims.

It has also emerged that the Treasury has spent up to £500,000 defending Mr Owen’s Employment Tribunal claims.

Mr Owen commented on the most recent Employment Tribunal judgment: “It’s good it’s been confirmed I deserve my job back but the simple, just course would have been to take me back without a long, costly process. I’m shocked that a government department is refusing to do as British justice has ordered. It feels wrong that I’m faced with a huge legal bill when how I was treated was so flawed that my dismissal was bound to be found unfair.”

A Treasury spokeswoman declined to discuss Owen’s case. “We do not comment on individual employment matters. This matter is still the subject of an appeals process,” she said

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “Employers – whether large or small – should take care to ensure that they treat employees fairly when making a decision whether to dismiss that person from their job or not, and must also take care to follow a fair procedure. A failure to do so can lead to extremely expensive and time-consuming Employment Tribunal litigation.”